Direct solar power receivers consist of tubular arrays, or panels, which are typically tubes arranged side by side and connected to an inlet and outlet manifold. The tubes absorb the heat incident on the surface and transfer it to the fluid contained inside them. To increase the solar absorptance, high temperature black paint or a solar selective coating is applied to the surface of the tubes. However, current solar selective coatings degrade over the lifetime of the receiver and must be reapplied, which reduces the receiver thermal efficiency and increases the maintenance costs. This work presents an evaluation of several novel receiver shapes which have been denominated as fractal like geometries (FLGs). The FLGs are geometries that create a light-trapping effect, thus, increasing the effective solar absorptance and potentially increasing the thermal efficiency of the receiver. Five FLG prototypes were fabricated out of Inconel 718 and tested in Sandia’s solar furnace at two irradiance levels of ∼15 and 30 W/cm2 and two fluid flow rates. Photographic methods were used to capture the irradiance distribution on the receiver surfaces and compared to results from ray-tracing models. This methods provided the irradiance distribution and the thermal input on the FLGs. Air at nearly atmospheric pressure was used as heat transfer fluid. The air inlet and outlet temperatures were recorded, using a data acquisition system, until steady state was achieved. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models, using the Discrete Ordinates (DO) radiation and the k-ω Shear Stress Transport (SST) equations, were developed and calibrated, using the test data, to predict the performance of the five FLGs at different air flow rates and irradiance levels. The results showed that relative to a flat plate (base case), the new FLGs exhibited an increase in the effective solar absorptance from 0.86 to 0.92 for an intrinsic material absorptance of 0.86. Peak surface temperatures of ∼1000°C and maximum air temperature increases of ∼200°C were observed. Compared to the base case, the new FLGs showed a clear air outlet temperature increase. Thermal efficiency increases of ∼15%, with respect to the base case, were observed. Several tests, in different days, were performed to assess the repeatability of the results. The results obtained, so far, are very encouraging and display a very strong potential for incorporation in future solar power receivers.

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